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  1. #1
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    Smile * ROOKIE MEMBER* Query Letter - THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY

    Hello all! I'm a new member here. I've begun the process of finding a home for my novel. I have submitted a few queries with little action. However, just today I revamped my query according to the standards of Query Shark. Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated. Many heartfelt thanks in advance!

    Greetings Mr./Mrs. Agent,

    When underachieving college student Max Meyers learns that the gruesome death of his father, a popular United States Senator, has been prematurely ruled a suicide, he sets out on a defiant mission to learn the truth, a mission that ultimately leads him to uncover the spiritual foundation of history's most wicked empire—and the disturbing plan to restore it.

    His world shattered, Max desperately clings to the terribly peculiar clue that might clear his father’s name—the sacred collection of letters sent home by Max’s great-grandfather during World War Two has been stolen. Why? Joined by a rag-tag team that includes an excessively proper British professor and a ruthless private investigator who is equal parts Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood, Max books an interview with a former member of his great-grandfather’s platoon. When an unseen sniper’s bullet inflicts tragedy, Max and his posse follow a series of cryptic clues to Germany, only to discover that they are on the trail of an insidious conspiracy that dates back to the final days of the Second World War.

    Max’s decision to keep the solemn promise he made at his father’s grave ultimately transforms him into the man he has no choice but to become. As the conspirators move ever closer to sparking a revolution, the trustworthy become liars and the faithful betray. Max has no place to turn but inward, for clearing his father’s name may require the ultimate sacrifice. Justice, mercy, vengeance, and love clash wills in THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY.

    My novel is an adventure-thriller and is approximately 157,000 words. Set in the present day, THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY shares genre elements with works such as THE BLACK SUN and ANGELS AND DEMONS. I am a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. Prior publishing credits include three nonfiction books, literature study guides, press releases, and online marketing projects. Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this query. The full manuscript is available immediately upon request.

    Blessings,

    Joshua C. Lisec
    Last edited by joshlisec; 03-17-2012 at 12:33 PM.



  2. #2
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    Just a few nits to pick. It looks interesting and you've demonstrated you can write and have a plotline.

    I think you'll be hardpressed to get this on one page without it looking crammed--with the date and address lines you'll need to include. (You can certainly drop the last two sentences; those should be givens with a fiction query. A simple "Thank-you for your consideration" at the end as a closeout before the signature would do it.)

    "Senator" isn't capped (in the first line).

    I thought the "prematurely ruled" was grating as presented. The authorities obviously didn't think it was. It would be better to identify who thinks so.

    I'd drop "sacred" in front of "collection." It raises more questions than it answers.

    The "inflicting tragedy" seems too coy for its significance to the plotline. If the platoon member is shot dead, just say so. (And "unseen" is unnecessary in front of "sniper." Snipers are supposed to be unseen.) Every word counts here; strip out the unnecessary ones.

    I think the manuscript is too long for a first fiction attempt. Good luck on that one.

    You have credits--although not in fiction. Including the titles of your published nonfiction books would be one of the more important elements to include.

    "blessings" as a closeout is way, way too familiar (and religious) for a query letter. You could be queering your pitch in the last gasp by irritating an agent/publisher multiple unnecessary ways.
    Last edited by Gary Kessler; 03-17-2012 at 02:10 PM.

  3. #3
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    World War Two or World War II?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lea Zalas's Avatar
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    Welcome, Josh. I'll do what I can to help, but Gary knows a lot more than I do.

    Your first paragraph is one, long, run-on sentence. Try breaking it down into at least two, if not three sentences.

    You're trying too hard to make the clues and situations sound dire by using too many adverbs. Like Gary said, strip out all unneeded words.

    'Terribly peculiar' in front of 'clue' is awkward and makes a person stop reading to wonder what you mean, if it's a clue, then just say it's a clue. Then you tell us that Max clings to these letters and at the same time that they have been stolen. Max can't cling to something he doesn't have.

    It sounds like an interesting story, but this query reads more like a synopsis.

    Hope this helps.

    Lea

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Author Pendragin View Post
    World War Two or World War II?
    Either. Just need to be consistent.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the feedback everyone! I'll re-post the revised version shortly.

  7. #7
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    Thank you so much for your feedback! Gosh, all these suggestions can get confusing! What one person loves, the other hates...But I'm okay with that! After taking the advice of commentors here and on other forums, I've made more adaptations. I think I'm getting closer and closer to the final product! I have received two query letter rejection notices so far, which means I am that much closer to finding the person who loves my manuscript as much as I do!


    Greetings Mr./Mrs. Agent,

    When underachieving college student Max Meyers learns that the gruesome death of his father, a popular United States senator, has been prematurely ruled a suicide, he sets out on a defiant mission to learn the truth. (The particular organization that made the ruling was the FBI; should I include that here? Or would that at first glance appear unbelievable. "The FBI doesn't make mistakes. Scrap this letter," might say some agents. I'm not sure. It makes perfect sense to most people who've read it as is. Just wondering!)

    His world shattered, Max clings to the clue that might clear his father’s name: the collection of letters sent home by Max’s great-grandfather during World War Two has been stolen. Why? Joined by a rag-tag team that includes an excessively proper professor and a ruthless private investigator from the Outback, Max heads to London for an impromptu interview with a former member of his great-grandfather’s platoon. When a sniper shoots the man dead, Max and his posse follow a series of cryptic clues to Germany, only to discover that they are on the trail of an insidious conspiracy seventy years in the making; one spawned by the clandestine organization that served as the spiritual foundation of history’s most wicked empire.

    Max’s decision to keep the promise of justice he made at his father’s grave ultimately transforms him into the man he has no choice but to become. As the conspirators move ever closer to sparking a revolution, Max has no place to turn but inward, for clearing his father’s name—as well as exposing the power-hungry neo-Nazis—may require the ultimate sacrifice. Justice, mercy, vengeance, and love clash wills in THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY. (This two-paragraph section is supposed to read as a mini-synopsis, no? I figured I would include the most poignant elements that set up the conspiracy, then general elements as it goes on. How does that pace?)

    My novel is an adventure-thriller and is approximately 157,000 words. (Works in my genre regularly extend well over this number of words, so I don't see that as a problem.) Set in the present day, THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY shares genre elements with works such as THE BLACK SUN and ANGELS AND DEMONS. I am a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. Prior publishing credits include three nonfiction books and multiple literature study guides. Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this query.

    Cordially,

    Joshua C. Lisec

  8. #8
    Senior Member Lea Zalas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joshlisec View Post
    When underachieving college student Max Meyers learns that the gruesome death of his father, a popular United States senator, has been prematurely (how is it "premature?") ruled a suicide, he sets out on a defiant (remember when we said to leave out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs? This is one of those) mission to learn the truth. (The particular organization that made the ruling was the FBI; should I include that here? Or would that at first glance appear unbelievable. "The FBI doesn't make mistakes. Scrap this letter," might say some agents. I'm not sure. It makes perfect sense to most people who've read it as is. Just wondering!) It doesn't really matter at this point, does it?

    His world shattered, Max clings to the clue that might clear his fatherís name: the collection of letters sent home by Maxís great-grandfather during World War Two has been stolen. (This sentence is disjointed. Again, Max can't cling to something that has been stolen. Not to mention, these two phrases don't work together. How about: Max clings to hope that a collection of letters written by his great-grandfather during WWII might contain a clue that will help clear his father's name. Except he has to find them first after discovering they've been stolen.) Why? Joined by a rag-tag team that includes an excessively proper professor and a ruthless private investigator from the Outback, Max heads to London for an impromptu (it's not impromptu if he's planning to meet with this man - impromptu means it happens spontaneously - like seeing someone on the sidewalk whom you haven't thought about in years - that's impromptu) interview with a former member of his great-grandfatherís platoon. When a sniper shoots the man dead, Max and his posse follow a series of cryptic clues to Germany, only to discover that they are on the trail of an insidious (all conspiracies all insidious by their very nature - this is an unnecessary adjective) conspiracy seventy years in the making; one spawned by the clandestine organization that (delete - the word 'which' works better) served as the spiritual foundation of historyís most wicked empire. (Don't use euphemisms like this - tell us which empire you're talking about - it will give the agent a better grasp of your story)

    Maxís decision to keep the promise of justice he made at his fatherís grave ultimately (not needed) transforms him into the man he has no choice but to become. (cliche and confusing - what kind of man does it transform him into? Does it make him ruthless and cold, or determined and driven? Then say it!) As the conspirators move ever closer (cliche and too overly dramatic - what do they still need to create a revolution, since obviously they don't have it yet, or the revolution would already be taking place. Tell us what they still need) to sparking a revolution, Max has no place to turn but inward, for clearing his fatherís nameóas well as exposing the power-hungry neo-Nazisómay require the ultimate sacrifice. (if the ultimate sacrifice is his death, then SAY IT! This is cliche, overdone, overtired, VAGUE, and unexciting wording. Agents see phrases like this all day long.) Justice, mercy, vengeance, and love clash wills in THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY. (This two-paragraph section is supposed to read as a mini-synopsis, no? NO! I figured I would include the most poignant elements that set up the conspiracy, then general elements as it goes on. How does that pace?)

    My novel is an adventure-thriller and is approximately (delete - give the agent a definite word count rounded up to the next 1,000th - you're the writer, you should know exactly how long your novel is, don't just guess) 157,000 words. (Works in my genre regularly extend well over this number of words, so I don't see that as a problem. Yes, but only if you're not a new writer - which you are. Check out each agent's website to see what word lengths they are willing to accept.) Set in the present day, THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY shares genre elements with works such as THE BLACK SUN and ANGELS AND DEMONS. (Don't tell an agent this, let them read and decide for themselves if it is comparable to other successful novels. If you tell an agent your book is similar to others, and they decide it really isn't - that is a kiss of death.) I am a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. Prior publishing credits include three nonfiction books and multiple literature study guides. (Share the names of your nonfiction works) Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this query. (Thank you for your consideration. KISS principle - Keep It Simple Sunshine)

    Cordially,

    Joshua C. Lisec
    Josh, a query letter is a short attempt to market your manuscript to an agent. It is not a mini-synopsis. If you can't grab an agent's interest in the first two sentences, then it's guaranteed that your letter will join hundreds of others written just like yours, in the wastebasket. And filling your query with overused cliches is one way to make sure that happens.

    Pretend you've just met me and are trying to entice me into a conversation about your work and you have only ten seconds to do so before I walk away. That's what a query letter is about. And no, you do not give away the ending of your book - save that for the synopsis.


    Lea
    Last edited by Lea Zalas; 03-19-2012 at 03:31 PM.

  9. #9
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    JUST MY OPINION, FEEL FREE TO IGNORE:

    It is fine to reveal the ending, but certainly not necessary. Either way is okay.

    You want to write a query that is short and compelling. It isn't a tease. You want the agent to think you can write, and ask to see the manuscript based of the quality of the writing in the query letter. Or, even if the query letter isn't brilliant, you want to present the idea of your book clearly so the agent decides to take a chance because you seem to have an interesting idea. Your letter has not succeeded on either level.

    Decide which events in the book are essential to the core storyline. Work from that center, and leave out the rest.

    Try to avoid lists like this:

    Justice, mercy, vengeance, and love

    It's meaningless and a summary. You don't need it.

    a ruthless private investigator who is equal parts Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood

    Really? He's equal parts strong leading-man white guy and strong leading-man white guy? Wow. How unique. You'd do much better to rely upon your ability to provide a sharp description of your character than to rely upon giving the names of two well-known actors.
    Last edited by leslee; 03-19-2012 at 04:01 PM.

  10. #10
    simba major
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    Greetings [informal] Mr./Mrs. Agent,

    When underachieving college student Max Meyers learns that the gruesome [adj.] death of his father, a popular United States Senator [no caps], has been prematurely [how does he know that?] ruled a suicide, he sets out on a defiant [how is it defiant?omit] mission to learn the truth, a mission [repetitious] that ultimately leads him to uncover the spiritual foundation of history's most wicked empire [which wicked empire?]—and the disturbing [unnecessary adj]plan to restore it.

    His world shattered [cliche alert], Max desperately [you love those adjectives] clings to the terribly peculiar [adv. AND adj.] clue that might clear his father’s name—the sacred [sacred?] collection of letters sent home by Max’s great-grandfather during World War Two has been stolen. Why? [huh?] Joined by a rag-tag [doesn't sound like a "rag-tag team] team that includes an excessively proper [another adv/adj combination] British professor and a ruthless private investigator [two stock roles] who is equal parts Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood [meaningless], Max books [odd word choice] an interview with a former member of his great-grandfather’s platoon. When an unseen [neologism] sniper’s bullet inflicts tragedy [huh?], Max and his posse [odd word choice] follow a series of cryptic [aren't they always?] clues to Germany, only to discover that they are on the trail of an insidious [aren't they always?] conspiracy that dates back to the final days of the Second World War.

    Max’s decision to keep the solemn promise [cliche alert] he made at his father’s grave ultimately transforms him into the man he has no choice but to become. [awkward and an odd thought - if he has no choice, then there's nothing admirable about it] As the conspirators move ever closer [another [adv/adj combo] to sparking a revolution, the trustworthy become liars and the faithful betray [that sounds like a dust jacket]. Max has no place to turn but inward, for clearing his father’s name may require the ultimate sacrifice. [what does that MEAN?] Justice, mercy, vengeance, and love clash wills [justice, mercy, vengeance, and love have wills?] in THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY.

    My novel is an adventure-thriller and is approximately 157,000 words. Set in the present day, THE PHOENIX CONSPIRACY shares genre elements with works such as THE BLACK SUN and ANGELS AND DEMONS. I am a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and editor. Prior publishing credits include three nonfiction books, literature study guides, press releases, and online marketing projects. [some specifics are called for] Thank you very much for taking the time to consider this query. The full manuscript is available immediately upon request. [I think that you would be better to lose half the plot summary and beef up the creds]

    Blessings, [R.I.P.]

    Joshua C. Lisec

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